Unless they are part of the select few, that own or charter business aircraft, few people know much about business aviation.
Less than 30% of Americans can name one business aviation company according to a survey we conducted with more than 5000 Americans in 2015. The best known brands were Learjet (15.8%), Boeing (11.4%), NetJets (4.6%), Gulfstream (3%) and Cessna (2.4%). Donald Trump – now President Trump – was sixth with 0.7%.
But this is starting to change. NetJets, which has been in the industry since 1987 and brought thousands of customers into business aviation, is still a tough one to beat. But newer membership companies like JetSmarter and SurfAir are working hard to create brands that are widely known.
But the undisputed leader is Wheels Up.
Thanks to celebrity ambassadors, sponsorships, thousands of baseball caps and the sales skills of Kenny Dichter, its founder, Wheels Up is the most searched for business aviation company on Google. The big spike in June 2015 may be a result of its sponsoring the silks of jockey Victor Espinoza, the jockey who won the 2015 Belmont Stakes.
The other new big marketing battleground is for online business jet charter customers.
Searches here are more volatile and less common than for membership companies. PrivateFly, the first in the market, uses public relations as its main marketing tool and has had some large spikes when particular campaigns have worked. FlyVictor has also benefited from a wider use of different marketing tools including advertising and sponsorship. There are others, but few are regularly scoring search hits.
Google searches do not, of course, necessarily translate into sales (especially for such high value transactions), but they are a rough guide to how new challengers are educating potential users. And once people have tried business aviation they fight very hard to stay using it.